While it is neither advisable nor necessary that a kicker be prevented from attempting to kick hard until he has his power on, what is the position of his leg and foot upon the swing, and what part of the foot strikes the ball. These are the principal points, and deserve the first attention. Regarding the first of these, his power should be put on just as his foot has passed the lowest part of the arc in which it swings, and it should meet the ball in the up-ward sweep very soon after passing this point. The position of his leg and foot is to be next noted, and the "snap the whip" phrase is as good a one to convey the idea as any that can be adopted. As the leg begins to swing the knee is bent and the body pitched a little forward, so that the weight of the kick seems to start from the hip and travel down the leg as it straightens, reaching the foot just as it meets the ball, as above mentioned. As for the third point, the ball, when punted, should be struck between the instep and the toe, impinging most upon the former. In a drop-kick and a place-kick the ball is met by the toe, and the sweep is made with "a longer leg," as the expression has it; that is, the foot swings nearer - in fact, almost along the ground.
All these three points can be most clearly illustrated by noting the effect of departures from them. If the power is not put on as above described, the man will simply send the ball along the ground, or will hook it up, merely tossing it with his foot instead of driving it. These two are the extremes, of course; but they illustrate where the power is lost or wasted. If the leg be not swung in proper position, the ball will be sim-ply spatted with the foot, the only force coming from the knee. Finally, if the ball be not met with the proper part of the foot it may snap downwards off the toe, or be merely bunted by the ankle. There is still another thing to be watched, which, while not the kick proper, really belongs to it as much as the swing of the leg. It is the way in which the ball is dropped to the foot from the hand or hands. The usual tendency of beginners, and many half-backs who could hardly be classed in that category, is to toss the ball from the han; that is, to give it a motion up from the hand, which, however slight, causes much valuable time to be lost. The ball should always be dropped to the foot, the distance between the hand and foot being made as short as possible.
The hand should be merely withdrawn just at the proper moment, and with practice it is not difficult to make the entire transfer from hand to foot so rapid as to almost eliminate any danger of having the ball stopped or struck during that part of the play. In drop-kicking the fall is necessarily greater, but it should never be a toss even then. There has been no little argument as to whether the ball should be held in one or both hands when about to kick, and such are the examples of good kickers arrayed on both sides that one cannot fairly say that either way is the only right way. If a player has become so accustomed to the two-hand method as to make him uncomfortable and inaccurate if forced to the one-hand way, it is hardly advisable to make the change. But any player who is taken early enough can be taught to drop the ball with one hand, to the great advantage of both his quickness and his ability to kick from tight quarters or around an opponent.
Knowlton L.Ames. Princeton.
The entire series of motions, therefore, which go to make up a well-performed kick should be in the coach's mind just as the separate parts of an oarsman's stroke are in the boating-man's mind when coaching a crew. The ball dropped, not tossed; the leg well swung, the power coming from both leg and hip with all the advantage that the poise of the body may add; the foot meeting the ball with the forward part of the instep on a punt, with the toe on a drop, and in either case just after passing the lowest point of the arc of swing, rather later on a punt than a drop, because the ground helps the latter to rise, while the rise of the former must come entirely from the foot. The next step in the education of the kicker is the side swing. The ball cannot be kicked as far when met directly in front of the kicker-his leg swinging straight, as it would in taking a step in running as it can be kicked by taking a side sweep with the leg and body, the hips acting as a sort of pivot.
One of the most common false ideas regarding this side kick is, that it is not performed with the same part of the foot as the straight punt, but that the ball is struck by the side of the foot. Of course, this is all wrong. The foot meets the ball as fairly and directly as it does in the ordinary straight kick, and the ball impinges upon the top of the instep and toe just as before, the word "side" referring to the swing of the leg and position of the body only.
All the suggestions thus far have been applicable to both half-backs and back, but before bringing the chapter to an end it is well to note a few of the special features of the full-back's position. The place originally was that of a goal-tend, but with the increase of the aggressive system of defence his duties have become more those of a third half-back. Other things being equal, it is eminently proper to select as a full-back an exceptionally strong tackier; but as for placing tackling ability above that of kicking, that is a mistake which might have been made six years ago, but of which no coach or captain would to-day be guilty.
The importance of the position is rapidly growing, and there is no doubt that the time will come in another year, if it be not already here, when the selection of the three men behind the line will be after this fashion - namely, picking out the three best half-backs, all things considered, then selecting that one of the three whose kicking is the best, and making him the third half or full back. After the man has been in this way chosen there will devolve upon him certain duties which do not commonly fall to the lot of the other two half-backs. Chiefest among these is the duty of making a running return of a kick. The opponents have sent a punt down towards him, which he secures while the opponents are still some yards away from him, although they are coming down rapidly. In this case, a thoroughly finished player will not only gain a few steps before he takes his kick, but he will take that kick on the run, sometimes dodging the first man before taking the kick. A full-back who can do this and never lose his kick is the greatest kind of a treasure for any team, and it is worth a captain's while to devote a good bit of attention to the full-back's perfecting this special feature of his play. He will also be likely to have the long place-kicking to do.
In fact, it is proper to practise him at this, because, if he be the best punter among the men behind the line, he can be made the longest place-kicker, and few realize the great 8 advantage of these long place-kicks to a team upon occasion of fair catches.
W. C. RHODES. Yale.
Tackling, when it does fall to the lot of a full-back, comes with an importance the like of which no other player is ever called upon to face. It usually means a touch-down if he misses. For practice of this kind it is well to play the Varsity back once in a while upon the scrub side. This is likely to improve the speed of his kicking also.